Obviously I’m going to talk about the ending of Mass Effect 3 in here, so spoiler warning.
I actually loved the ending of Mass Effect 3. Seriously, I really did. I loved that Shepard got dealt a bad hand and didn’t know how to deal with it. I loved that the Crucible was a bust and the Catalyst was a jerk. I loved that the choices I made mattered despite the fact that the ending cinematic didn’t spoon feed me exposition explaining how they mattered. In the end, Shepard realized that no matter how many aliens he had sex with, no matter how many reporters he punched, some things were just bigger than he was, and there are times when certain elements are outside of your control. I’m happy with that, and I’m happy that BioWare didn’t actually screw that up with the Extended Cut.
But, at the same time, I totally believe that BioWare should create and release an alternate ending that completely changes everything.
Unless a new ending is offered by playing DLC, every piece of additional content is essentially a needless prequel, fleshing out a world that’s about to be wiped clean. According to BioWare, next week’s Leviathan DLC is “Set during ME3’s harrowing Reaper invasion,” and it “tasks Commander Shepard with tracking down an elusive entity that, according to legend, may wield the power to defeat a Reaper.”
But… it doesn’t. Everyone knows it doesn’t. There’s no way the weapon thing Shepard is looking for will wield the power to defeat a Reaper because, otherwise, that would totally change the ending of the game, and BioWare likely would have revealed that intention months ago. You know that the beacon or signal he going after is going to be a trap, or a ruse, or something else that doesn’t end with Shepard strapping a giant cannon onto the top of the Normandy and blasting apart ancient robots.
Sure, it’ll be fun, and it’ll flesh out the galaxy or the history, and it’ll give us an excuse to dive back into a universe we’ll likely never get to explore again for several years, but so what? We already know how it ends. It doesn’t matter.
That’s why BioWare should be open to releasing downloadable content that provides a completely new ending to Mass Effect 3--not because Mass Effect 3’s regular ending is broken or needs fixing, but because it is the only way downloadable content will actually matter. It has already confirmed that it’s working on a ton of post-release content, and it’s likely that a majority of it will be new plotlines for DLC, so it might as well make it take place near the end of the campaign, instead of randomly shoved into the middle.
What if the entity Shepard finds in Leviathan actually does have the power to defeat a Reaper? That would change everything. Maybe it would allow them to actually win the war instead of just hitting a green, red, or blue galaxy-wide reset button.
On that note, what if Shepard decides to just fight the Reapers head on? What if he’s allowed to just… run? What if he could infiltrate some weird Reaper base and upload a virus, Independence Day style. Would these be better than the ending that shipped with the game? Not likely. Would they be worth playing to see other possible options? Absolutely. Other options can be added post-release that change the conclusion, because it’s not like save data from ME3 is going to transfer over to whatever comes next.
Allowing DLC to change the ending of Mass Effect 3 would fix this, and everything else. Fans of the original ending can ignore the new mission or the new continuity if they want, just as they ignored any alternate storylines in their main campaign. It really wouldn’t be much different from choosing to kill or save the Rachni in Mass Effect or deciding who lives or dies during the conclusion of Mass Effect 2. Meanwhile, those that complained about the conclusion can finally get what they want: a new ending, be it a happier one, a sadder one, or simply a different one.
But more importantly, creating DLC that could have the potential to drastically change the end of the game wouldn’t hurt anyone. It wouldn’t be sacrificing the writers’ artistic vision or giving in to “fan” pressure--it would just be doing what Mass Effect has done from the beginning: Giving players more choice.
Honestly, even if people unanimously loved the ending of ME3 I’d still be lobbying for this. If BioWare opens itself up to releasing ending-changing DLC then the content can actually mean something, otherwise everything has to be set back to the way it was at the beginning at the end, and that’s just sort of a waste.
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